Daniel Boone's Kaylin Conkin is greeted at the plate after hitting a home run. (Photos by Lee Talbert/Johnson City Press)
Daniel Boone pitcher McKenzi Ferguson had to work overtime Thursday, but made sure it paid off.
Ferguson blooped an 0-2 pitch into shallow right field for a go-ahead two-run single in the top of the ninth inning and the Lady Trailblazers pulled away for a 7-1 victory at Science Hill.
Boone improved to 8-3 overall and 3-1 in the Big Seven Conference. Science Hill (8-5) fell to 3-2 in the league.
Ferguson and Emma Martindale were locked in a pitchers’ duel through eight innings. And Martindale was still making quality pitches when Ferguson managed to get a piece of an outside 0-2 pitch on the offering prior to her game-winning single, which wasn’t a bad pitch either.
“I’m sure they were trying to pitch her way out, and it was probably a pretty good pitch,” Boone coach Rick Wagner said. “She just got the bat on it. … She had two strikes on her and she’s gonna widen the plate a little bit.
“I thought their pitcher did a good job and McKenzi was good. We just got some timely hits at the end; that’s the only difference.”
Ferguson struck out 12, walked two and allowed eight hits, three of which were bunt singles, while improving to 4-0 at the expense of a rival.
“It’s a lot of fun and it’s always been a rivalry,” Ferguson said. “I honestly wasn’t too worried. I knew eventually the girls would get it together and we would score something. … I was just happy to get a hit (in the ninth).”
Ferguson empathized with Martindale (2-4), who’d allowed seven hits (four were infield singles) and walked three through eight innings before finding trouble in the ninth.
“She threw very, very well,” Ferguson said.
Kaylin Conklin’s one-out home run to right-center field gave Boone a 1-0 lead in the fourth.
Science Hill tied it on Blair Henry’s two-out line drive single in the sixth. It scored pinch runner Taylor Grindstaff, who stole second after Megan Maupin led off the inning with a single.
Boone stranded runners at first and third in the seventh, and the Hilltoppers left runners at second and third in the bottom of the seventh. Science Hill left the bases loaded in the first and the fifth innings, and stranded 11 runners in all.
“We’re a work in progress, no question, especially with the hitting part,” Science Hill coach Jerry Higgins said. “I mean, we’ve got two batters back from our lineup last year, and we’ve played … 13 games now. That ain’t a lot of games to season somebody.”
Meredith Good scored three runs when she lined a two-RBI single to right field to make the score 6-1. Reliever Vanessa Elliott came on for Martindale, and allowed hits to Abbey Harrison and Allie Littleton, who completed the scoring and a 4-for-6, two-RBI performance with an RBI double.
“I think Emma had about pitched herself out,” Higgins said. “She hadn’t pitched more than five innings all year. But she deserved to win and I was gonna let her have the opportunity (by going back out in the ninth).”
Boone stranded 12 runners, and also left the bases loaded in the first.
“The first inning really hurt both of us,” Higgins said. “They had bases loaded and … just one out and we had bases loaded and one out. If either one of us would’ve got a big hit there it might’ve changed the whole game. … Kaylin kept us in the game with the home run early and then we got some big hits.”
Elliott had three hits, including a double, for Science Hill. Erin Gorzka had two bunt singles.
Good also had a double and two line-outs for Daniel Boone, which plays Zion Benton (Ill.) and defending Class AAA champion Smyrna today at Smyrna.
Science Hill visits Tennessee High on Monday.